Preparing for Battle
Pastor Arn Buck
Heart Song Worship Center
Revelation 3:5-6 (NLT) All who are victorious will be clothed in white. I will never erase their names from the Book of Life, but I will announce before my Father and his angels that they are mine. "Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. "
Preparing for battle is not something that is only done one time. It is an on-going process. We should always be ready. We never really know what is around the corner. Last week we looked at how some military leaders in the Old Testament prepared for battle. We saw the importance of the following points:
Being strong and courageous in the knowledge of God's
Knowing God's strategy for the battle.
Allowing God to take away that things we find security in so that He ultimately receives the credit for the victory.
This week we will examine these points from the prospective of the prophet Habakkuk and by looking at the events between Jesus' betrayal and resurrection. Habakkuk will be used to illustrate the first two points and the period between the betrayal and resurrection will be used as an example of the third point.
Habakkuk's Dialog With God
God uses Habakkuk in a very creditable way to show that He is strong and in control in spite of how things might appear in the natural. Habakkuk's prophecy is a dialog between God and a godly man. It is an example that we can use in our prayers when seeking answers and instruction from the Holy Spirit. The book of Habakkuk can be broken down into five sections.
Habakkuks questions why God doesn't judge Judah for
their godlessness. Habakkuk 1:1-4)
God informs Habakkuk that He is raising the Babylonians to judge Judah. Habakkuk 1:5-11)
Habakkuk questions God why the Babylonians will be allowed to live in luxury at the expense of those more righteous than themselves. (Habakkuk 1:12-17 & 2:1)
God assures Habakkuk of His pending judgment for their pride and violence. (Habakkuk 2:2-20)
Habakkuk offers a prayer of praise to God acknowledging that He is sovereign and in control. (Habakkuk 3:1-19)
Habakkuk is evidently disturbed by the social corruption and wickedness of those around him. He is astonished that God is not taking action to judge such lawlessness. The spiritual battle that many are facing is maintaining their faith in God. They feel God has deserted them and are turning to their own means to deal with life apart from God. Their land had been ravaged by the Assyrians. They are being heavily taxed and many of their most gifted people have been taken into captivity. They asked each other, "how could a holy and righteous God tolerate all this?" They answered the question by what they saw around themselves. They had enough evidence to believe that God deserted them or that He was not strong enough to do what He wills.
Habakkuk saw the same things as everyone else. He could have sulked about it and given up on God. He could have complained to His friends and taken them down with him by damaging their faith. Instead he demonstrated that he valued his relationship with God. He did the right thing. When people complain about someone, it is easy to join in the complaints without knowing if the charges are valid. One should at least give the person an opportunity to defend them self. That's what Habakkuk did. He brought his concerns directly to God.
He had confidence that God would respond to a sincere question from someone desiring to serve Him and stay faithful to Him. God knew his heart. He saw the battle that Habakkuk was struggling with. Remember God wants us to win. God's response clearly confirmed that He was the Holy and a righteous judge as defined in the scriptures. He was dealing with the issues in His own way and at His own time table. God 's response raised additional questions so Habakkuk went back to Him a second time.
I believe that God wants us to be honest and open with Him. We should confront God if something is bothering us about Him. However, after doing that we should follow that example of Habakkuk as seen in the first verse of chapter two.
Habakkuk 2:1 (NLT) I climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guardpost. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint.
It is clearly wrong to complain about God to someone else. It is disrespectful to complain to God and walk away before He answers. It is telling Him that you are not interested in what He has to say. Always be honest with God, but always be very respectful. Remember it is a tremendous privilege to be able to come before Him. It is not a right! Having the ear of the creator of all things is not not something to take lightly. Taking it lightly shows that God is not real to us.
In God's second response He addresses Habakkuk concern and tells him how harshly He will judge the Babylonians. God's responses confirms to Habakkuk that He is not a God whom turn a blind eye to the injustice that is found in the world. Those who selfishly exploit others will eventually pay the price for their deeds.
Biblical prophecy is amazingly accurate. The illustrate this point Isaiah prophesied that the Babylonians would fall to the Persian king Cyrus. This was predicted well before the Babylonians came into power and well before Cyrus was born. Isaiah preceded Habakkuk by at least 80 years. Consider how vague the writings of Nostradamus in comparison to this.
Isaiah 48:14 (NLT) Have any of your idols ever told you this? Come, all of you, and listen: The LORD has chosen Cyrus as his ally. He will use him to put an end to the empire of Babylon and to destroy the Babylonian armies.
Isaiah also prophesied how God would use Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem and restore the Temple. This was predicted before either one was destroyed.
Isaiah 44:28 (NLT) When I say of Cyrus, 'He is my shepherd,' he will certainly do as I say. He will command, 'Rebuild Jerusalem'; he will say, 'Restore the Temple.'"
After God's second response Habakkuk sees God's plan. He is again convinced that God is sovereign and in control. With this relation we expresses his confidence and trust in a psalm-like prayer. Verse six of chapter two shows that he clearly knew God's awesome power and strength.
Habakkuk 3:6 (NLT) When he stops, the earth shakes. When he looks, the nations tremble. He shatters the everlasting mountains and levels the eternal hills. He is the Eternal One!
Habakkuk's struggle with faith ended in victory. This is abundantly clear in the last three verses of the book.
Habakkuk 3:17-19 (NLT) Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty,yet I will rejoice in the LORD!I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.
After having God's plan revealed to him, and in spite of his bleak situation, Habakkuk proclaims that he has reason to be joyful in the Lord. He has reached the understanding that God is always the same and always praise-worthy regardless of our circumstances. We all have experienced how easy it is to be thankful to God and rejoice when things go our way. We also know how difficult it is have the same attitude when we don't get our way. What does this say about who is in the center of our universe? To even imagine that our circumstances in life alter the nature and character of our sovereign God is utterly absurd! Let's be honest. We all have a tendency to do that. Isn't amazing how distant God can feel when life is dismal but not desperate?
Habakkuk was won his battle. His faith in God remained intact. He stands strong and courageous at the end. Satan won no territory in his heart. Habakkuk gives the Lord full credit by acknowledging Him as the source of his strength and his joy.
I believe that Habakkuk's dialog with God was given to him to help those around him to see God's plan and prepare them to also be victorious. The Lord used someone was close enough to His voice to speak to those who had grown too distant. God uses prophets as a last ditch effort to save us from the destructive consequences of a battle that we were not prepared for.
The Ultimate Whittling Down Prior to the Ultimate Victory
Last week we saw how God, prior to a battle, sometimes sets the stage to make it clear that His power made the victory possible. We looked at how Gideon's army won a great victory after it was whittled down from 32,000 to 300 men. An even more extreme example can be found in the New Testament. Consider the events between the betrayal of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and His resurrection.
All of Jesus' disciples deserted him and ran away when
He was arrested. (Mark 14:50-52)
Peter, one of His closest disciples, publicly denied even knowing Jesus. (Matthew 26:69- 75,Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-65, John 18:15-18, 25-27)
Men despised Jesus so much that they were willing to lie in order to bring a conviction against Him. (Matthew 26:60-61)
The Biblical experts of that time accused Jesus of blasphemy (Matthew 26:65-66, Mark 14:63)
Those whom Jesus loved and came to save selected a murderer over Him as a man who deserved to be set free. Then they demanded that Jesus be crucified. (Matthew 27:20 - 23, Luke 23:18-25, John 18:38-40)
The leading priests and teachers of the law mocked Jesus as He suffered on the cross. (Matthew 27:41-44, Mark 15:31-32, Luke 23:35-37)
A Roman soldier used a spear to certify that Jesus was dead. (John 19:34)
Jesus' badly beaten remains were sealed in a guarded tomb. (Matthew 27:62-66)
Jesus, the man viewed by His followers as the long waited Messiah was now dead after being executed as a common criminal. Who, in their right mind, could believe that Jesus was who He said He was? Even those who knew God's strength were probably dazed and confused by the events of that dark Friday. Those who were considered the experts in the Bible proclaimed Jesus to be blasphemous. They believed that Satan empowered Him to perform His miracles. Maybe these experts in the law were right after all. The prophetic validation by Simeon and Anna must have been a mistake. What good is a dead Messiah? All reason for hope in Jesus being the savior of mankind had vanished into thin air.
When the women went to the tomb on Sunday morning, they were expecting to find a beaten and bruised corpse. Upon their arrival their hopeless despair was dispelled when the angel at the tomb asked, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Jesus won a battle that began in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate from the Tree of knowledge. He had become the only adequate payment for that act of disobedience. He was God's plan for victory as announced in Genesis 3:15. Speaking of warfare, did Adam and Eve realize the spiritual impact that the simple act of biting into a piece of fruit would have? Were they prepared for battle that day? They definitely felt the impact after loosing the skirmish with Satan. It's a great example of the damage that a surprise attack can inflict. We can't always regain what was lost.
A short time after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, 120 of His followers were baptized by the Holy Spirit and empowered to start the Church. Today 2,180,714,645 (data extracted from the World Fact Book) people claim to be Christian. This is ten times greater than the estimated population of the world at the time the time of Jesus' crucifixion . It is approximately 500 times greater than the total estimated number of Jews living at that time. In all of human history is there a greater example of complete defeat being turned into a tremendous victory? Can man claim glory for the plan or for what happened during those three days of hopeless despair? This victory will be commemorated throughout all eternity and God will be gloried for it.
When we see God whittle down the things that we put our trust in, it is essential that we draw as close to Him as possible. We need to hear all of His instructions. People will see us going out on a limb as we trust God in impossible looking situations. If we fail it shows that God wasn't able to do what we said He would do. This causes major damage to our testimonies. It make us look like fools and it helps people believe that God doesn't really exist. We must hear His voice clearly and be able to distinguish it from our own voice or that of the enemy. Jesus assures us that those who know Him know His voice.
John 10:3 (NLT) The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
John 10:14 (NLT) "I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,
People who aren't paying attention at that time might just see themselves as going through a period of bad luck. They will reach for the first life preserver that comes near them and drift away from God's plan. If we are paying attention, we need His strength to keep from being consumed by fear. If we overcome our temptation to desert Him during the time that logically appears to be hopeless, the victory will ultimately bring Him glory and we will be blessed. We will have a testimony to help others be victorious when their turn comes up. We will be able to celebrate the victory with passion! Who says that worship has to be subdued and reverently contained?